The Boardwalk Buddy Walk (BWBW) was organized in 2006 by Dennis and Sharonlee Diehl. Sharonlee's brother, David Samson, is now 65 years old and has Down syndrome. When David's mother passed away, the Diehls were inspired to promote acceptance and inclusion for people with Down syndrome within the Rehoboth Beach community. The first walk in 2006 included 13 self-advocates and 350 walkers. Following the 2008 event, the BWBW was awarded the prestigious Governor's Tourism Award.
Chris Burke, a self-advocate TV star, celebrated the BWBW 5th anniversary in 2010 by performing for 57 self-advocates and 1500 walkers. Also in 2010, Luke Archer attended his first Buddy Walk and his family raised a record amount of money for Luke's team. Luke's Aunt Michelle joined the team of BWBW volunteers and by 2013, she was appointed the volunteer Executive Director of BWBW.
The 2011 event was attended by the National Down Syndrome Society's then president Jon Colman. Jon stated that the BWBW was the benchmark for other Buddy Walks around the country. In 2015, current standing NDSS President Sara Weir attended the BWBW's 10th anniversary event. Soon after, NDSS named the Boardwalk Buddy Walk as the 2016 Buddy Walk of the Year award winner.
Today the BWBW is an all-volunteer event, still led by Dennis, Sharonlee, and Michelle. They are supported by Board members: Dianne Deming, Liza Dolan, Bill Drake, Liz Evans, Mark Evans, Denise Kirn, Len Lesham, Karen Mumford, Lauren Wright, and countless other volunteers. The walk, which raises $74,000 annually, is approaching 2000 participants, including 83 self-advocates, 150 volunteers, and 75 business sponsors. Money raised supports local organizations that provide services to people with cognitive disorders.
Consider the possABILITY. Since 2006, the mission of the Boardwalk Buddy Walk has been to create a community where people with Down syndrome, or any cognitive disorder, can live, learn, work, and play. On October 7, 2017, we will celebrate our efforts. The community in Rehoboth Beach will see us dance and sing, and those who see us will understand how valuable our lives are to each other. The next day our mission continues, but there will be more of us then.